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It's always exciting to get a new drop from one of our favorite California producers and old-vine aficionados Sandlands, if a little bittersweet in that there just never seems to be much wine to go around. The spring release of 2021s is here and while the quantities are miniscule, the wines are as always bursting with energy and big on personality. Sandlands has gained a loyal following over the years, started by longtime Turley winemaker Tegan Passalacqua as a way to highlight some of California's lesser known varietals grown in vineyards that have against all odds managed to shirk industrialization. In addition to his winemaking expertise, what really makes this project special is Tegan's persistence (some might say obsession) in finding old, forgotten vines in tiny corners of California, all planted on their original rootstock and dry-farmed for generations. The soils are predominantly sandy decomposed granite and give the wines a common thread in their supple texture and fine tannins that never feel overly harsh or out of balance. This textural element combined with the dense, concentrated flavors from the ancient vines and carefully restrained touch during the winemaking process make for some truly profound wines that can age gracefully for years, but always show beautifully upon release.
Drinking a bottle of the 2021 Trousseau reminded me of what I love most in a wine: there's tension, savory complexity and pure, wild fruit that all seem to intermingle seamlessly, backed by punchy acidity and just a kiss of tannic grip. While it may all sound nice in writing, the true test is what happens after that first glass. Sure enough, all I wanted to do was turn my brain off, pour some more Trousseau and share with whoever happened to be around (in this case my roommates). We all agreed - these wines, as nuanced and complex as any, are ultimately as enjoyable as they are thought-provoking. To me, that's what makes them special: their capacity to deliver pure and absolute joy. Jeff DiLorenzo
(Please limit one per customer) The Trousseau comes from the Bohan Vineyard, planted at 1400 feet just three miles from the Pacific Ocean. The area is known for Pinot Noir but these Trousseau vines thrive in the gravelly loam soils derived from shale and sandstone. The 2021 is lithe and elegant, bursting with bright red cherry fruit and an herbal savory streak that makes it truly compelling. There's mouthwatering acidity that keeps you going back for more - an ideal companion for grilled chicken or vegetable dishes but supremely enjoyable on its own.
(Please limit one per customer) This is 100% Mataro (Mourvedre) from Contra Costa County, head-trained and dry-farmed in a vineyard planted in the 1920s. The soils are classified as Delhi blow sand, consisting of decomposed granite deposited by wind and water. While the Mataro grape is known as dark-fruited and robust, Tegan always seems to find a way to coax freshness and vivacity out of it, with ample acid and enough structure to age another five or ten years.
(Please limit one per customer) This Carignane comes from the Spenker Ranch Vineyard in Lodi, planted in 1900 by Joseph Spenker and currently spanning only about 8 acres. The soils are sandy loam situated on the west side of the Mokelumne River, and the vines are known to produce some of the punchiest and most energetic Carignane in California. More red-fruited, with tart black cherry and strawberry along with racy acidity and firm tannins that make it very food friendly.
This is a blend of three grapes in equal parts: Cinsault from the Bechtold Vineyard (some of the oldest Cinsault vines in the world, planted in 1886), Carignane from Spenker Ranch, and Zinfandel from the winery's own Kirschenmann Vineyard in Victor, California (planted in 1915). The soils are all the sandy, granitic loam that many of these old vines find their rooting in, lending depth and texture to the pure, deep fruit.
This is a new wine for Sandlands, consisting of 100% Syrah from the Stolo Vineyard off the coast in San Luis Obispo. It's a surprisingly cool climate here (Stolo is in the coolest part of the SLO Coast AVA, itself the coolest AVA in California) with ocean breezes that help moderate ripening. As it's new and we got so little we haven't been able to taste this, but Antonio Galloni from Vinous describes it as a "powerful, savory wine with tons of coastal, cool climate character. Dark cherry/plum fruit, black pepper, incense and dried herbs give the 2021 tons of aromatic complexity."